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Sep 212014


One in Three Campaign

One third of domestic violence victims denied services

Following last week’s launch of Our Watch,  a new national initiative aimed to prevent violence against women and their children – the One in Three Campaign has released a new analysis of the latest Australian data on male victims of family violence.
Senior Researcher Greg Andresen said, “We are very glad to see violence against women being taken so seriously by the Australian Government. However we are extremely concerned that one third of victims of sexual assault and family violence are excluded by One Watch and its sister organisation ANROWS simply on the basis of their gender.”
The analysis of the ABS Personal Safety Survey and the AIC Homicide in Australia, 2008?10, published today by One in Three, challenges the claim that the vast majority of family violence is committed by men against women and children. Using the same data sources as Fact Sheets recently released by ANROWS, the new data analysis paints a very different picture of gender and family violence in Australia.
“The statistics presented by ANROWS have been designed to over-inflate female victimisation by using lifetime experience of violence instead of current rates, while downplaying male victimisation by taking only the female perspective,” said Mr Andresen.
“75 males were killed in domestic homicide incidents between 2008-10. That’s one death every 10 days,? said Mr Andresen. “1.2 million Australian men have experienced emotional abuse by a partner, almost half a million have experienced violence by a partner and almost a third of a million have experienced violence by a girlfriend/boyfriend or date. Where are the services for these men and boys?”
The vast majority of domestic violence services in Australia are closed to males. There are no shelters for men and their children, no safe rooms or legal support at courthouses, no community education and prevention programmes, no support groups, no perpetrator programs for women or health service screening tools for men.
One in Three is calling upon the Australian Government to comply with its international human rights obligations and provide programs and services for male, as well as female victims of family violence.
“There is simply no excuse for this kind of sexist discrimination in Australia in 2014,” said Mr Andresen.
Male victims of family violence: key statistics
  • More than 1 in 3 victims of domestic homicide were male (38.7%)
  • 2 in 5 victims of physical and/or sexual child abuse were male (39.0%)
  • 1 in 3 victims of current partner violence were male (33.3%)
  • Almost 1 in 3 victims of violence from a boyfriend/girlfriend or date were male (27.9%)
  • More than 1 in 3 victims of partner emotional abuse were male (37.1%)
  • 1 in 3 victims of stalking were male (34.2%)
  • Almost 1 in 3 victims of sexual assault were male (29.6%)
Male victims of family violence were:
  • 2 to 3 times more likely than women to have never told anybody about experiencing partner violence
  • Twice as likely as women to have never sought advice or support about experiencing partner violence
  • Up to 40% more likely than women to have not contacted police about experiencing partner violence
  • Half as likely as women to have had a restraining order issued against the perpetrator of partner violence.


Greg Andresen, Senior Researcher, One in Three Campaign, 0403 813 925 or

Jun 182014

overnight care for toddler in shared parenting arrangementA US child psychologist has entered a bitter debate on toddler sleep-overs by warning that young children from separated families could suffer brain damage by sleeping over with their father if their mother is the primary caregiver.

Psychologist Penelope Leach has made the explosive statement that separation from mothers “reduces brain development” and could lead to “unhealthy attachment issues”. She has offered no evidence to back up her claims however, relying on her apparent expert opinion and observations.

Dr Leach, whose parenting books have sold millions, says even one night away from mum, if she is the primary caregiver, could cause lasting damage.

Discredited Research

These sentiments follow the now condemned research carried out by Australian psychologist Dr Jen McIntosh, which found that toddlers separated from their mother during sleep time, were more stressed. The research used by Dr McIntosh to make these claims has since been roundly condemned as unsound, non-scientific, non-longitudinal, and methodically compromised, and many argued that her research was of little value since it was so poorly structured. It should be noted that McIntosh’s conclusion have not been supported by any other similar studies since.

The Influence of McIntosh and Co on Shared Parenting laws

The influence however of the McIntosh study, as flawed as it was, on Australia’s family law system has been so profound that barristers have a special phrase to describe the common experience of losing the battle for some overnight care of toddlers – they joke they’ve been “McIntoshed”. But for the fathers concerned it is no joking matter.

The McIntosh era dates back to 2010 when the Labor government commissioned her to lead an investigation into the impact on preschoolers of overnight contact in their father’s care. Many are of the view that McIntosh was commissioned by the Labor government, precisely because she had made no secret that she was opposed to Australia’s then-recently enacted Shared Parenting laws.

Condemned as amateurish and transparent  

Ash Patil from Fathers4Equality called the McIntosh research “trojan horse advocacy which was undone by the fact that the study was so poorly done. The study had no redeeming features, it was a complete mess and it looked like a rush job which did not even do the basics like have a proper control group. It can best be described as amateurish and quite transparent in its goal.”

Sonja Hastings, editor of Articles About Men claimed that “I think McIntosh started out with the conclusion, and then she made her research fit her ideology, and I think there is no hiding from that fact when you read the study.”

“She even avoids addressing the most obvious questions that come from her research. For instance, what about sleeping at grandparents, or at daycare, or in another room, or while mum is in the kitchen. It is a case of ideology trumping common sense and healthy development dynamics in all families.”

Likewise with Psychologist Penelope Leach’s claims on brain damage for sleep-overs with dad, a lot of people remain unconvinced.

Dr Leach first caused controversy in the 1970s when she released her book, Your Baby & Child: From Birth To Age Five, which suggested that only mothers could care adequately for a child and a father’s role is secondary.

Dr Leach says shared custody is being treated as a right rather than considering what is best for the child.

Celebrities like Louis CK have spoken about the difficulties faced sharing custody of children. Louis CK continually talks about how he would be nothing without his two daughters.

While fathers’ groups have called the comments by Dr Leach ‘absolute poison’, Oliver James, a trained clinical child psychologist, journalist and TV presenter, said Dr Leach was providing “good advice.”

“All the evidence suggests that younger children should not be separated from their primary caregiver who, in the vast majority of cases, is the mother,” he told the Independent. “If the child has a really strong attachment to both parents, there might be a case for exploring whether it really matters if they have sleep- overs at the father’s. But in most cases, you should do nothing to disrupt the relationship with the primary caregiver. To do so can affect the child’s brain development.

110 Leading International Experts on Child development

However,  according to a recently published academic paper endorsed by 110 leading international experts, it is not the case that sharing of overnight care of infants is problematic. The paper, Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A consensus report was published in February in the American Psychological Association’s journal, Psychology, Public Policy and Law.

It is backed by leading Australian academics including Don Edgar, the former head of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Judy Cashmore, Associate Professor in Socio-Legal Studies at Sydney University and Barry Nurcombe, Emeritus Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Queensland.

This article analyses existing research and finds that infants commonly develop attachment relationships with more than one care giver and concludes that in normal circumstances children are likely to do better if they have overnight contact with both parents.

It also finds that depriving young children of the opportunity to stay overnight with their fathers could compromise the quality of developing father-child relationships.

Fathers4Equality echoes this compelling research by stressing that unscientific dogma being pushed by zealouts  like Leach and McIntosh is what ultimately is so harmful to our young children, by denying them an equal and meaningful relationship with both parents, at a time when they need it the most.

May 182014

jen-mcintosh-exposed-as-scientific-fraudOf the eight studies done to date on the effects of overnight care by non-resident parents on very young children, seven of them show either no adverse effects or that overnights are associated with improved outcomes. That leaves the 2010 study by McIntosh, Smyth, Kelaher and Wells. To say that it’s a seriously flawed piece of work is to put it mildly. That it’s become the touchstone for the anti-dad crowd to continue their efforts to marginalize fathers in the lives of their children comes as no surprise first because the study can easily be read to do just that and second because the anti-dad crowd’s never much cared for intellectual scruples.

The study, that many call the “pre-schooler study,” was conducted for the office of the Australian Attorney General, and was based on data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Now, the LSAC has a good bit of heft to it, comprised as it is of data gathered from some 10,000 children. But McIntosh, et al didn’t use all those kids or all that data. Indeed, constructing their study as they did, some samples they used had as few as 14 children in them. Most tellingly, “the negative data on which the woozle (that children experience problems with attachment to a parent if they have too many overnights with the other parent) is based came from some of the smallest samples in the study.”

And, speaking of the study’s samples, they turn out to bear no relationship to the general population. As Dr. Linda Nielsen points out, “Most of these parents had never been married to one another (90% for infants and 60% for toddlers) and 30% of the infants’ parents had never even lived together. This means the findings should not be generalized to the general population of divorced parents.” So, in addition to everything else, the findings of the McIntosh study, even if they had validity, turn out to be useless in any but the narrowest of situations. They can’t be applied parents generally or to divorced parents or to those who’ve lived together for long.

 For that proposition, the study is entirely worthless, and it gets close to that status for others.
Worse, despite the large population of children in the LSAC, McIntosh, et al simply failed to compare certain groups. For example, as Nielsen points out, “this study never compared the children who never overnighted to the children who only occasionally overnighted. That is, the study never addressed the question: Is occasional overnighting better or worse than never overnighting?” For that proposition, the study is entirely worthless, and it gets close to that status for others.

For example, the study takes as a given “that infants form a “primary” attachment to only one parent and later form a “secondary” attachment to their other parent.” To say the least, that’s a very doubtful assertion. It’s contradicted by considerable social science on the issue that Warshak, et al detail in his paper, but McIntosh and colleagues went ahead and assumed it anyway.

Still worse, McIntosh, et al decided to define “shared care” completely differently than do the rest of social scientists who study this issue. For most such scientists, “shared care” means a minimum of 35% to 40% parenting time for each parent. But inexplicably, for McIntosh and her fellow researchers, it meant as little as five nights per month with the non-resident parent, or about 16.5% of parenting time. Why they changed the definition so many social scientists work with as a matter of course remains a mystery.

Worst of all, the authors used six measures to determine whether a child was being adversely affected by overnights with dad, and four of them have never been validated as actually reflecting adverse consequences. Really, that’s what they did. So McIntosh, et al looked at “irritability, persistence (at a particular task), wheezing, and wariness/watchfulness about the mother’s where-abouts” to measure whether or not a child was stressed by overnighting with its father. The problem is that, no one else had ever used those to measure what McIntosh, et al sought to measure. They’d been validated for other purposes, but not for that. The researchers simply made them up for the purpose of evaluating the stress, or lack thereof, on children of overnights.

That alone renders the study essentially meritless. No one can say a particular type of behavior evidences stress in an infant unless the behavior has been independently shown to indicate that. But on at least one of the McIntosh group’s measures, their conclusions may in fact be the exact opposite of what they ought to be.

The idea that a child’s watchfulness, i.e. its tendency to keep an eye on its mother, indicates stress on the child’s part was invented out of whole cloth by McIntosh, et al. But watchfulness has been validated as an indicator of another type of behavior — readiness to begin talking. As Nielsen points out, watchfulness by a pre-verbal child has been shown to indicate “that the infant has more highly developed ways of communicating and is readier to begin talking.”

So, in McIntosh’s study, children with frequent overnights exhibited greater watchful behavior and to the researchers, that indicated heightened stress even though the test had never been validated for that. What that behavior did indicate was that the children with frequent overnights were in fact more advanced in their communication skills than were the children with fewer overnights. In other words, contrary to McIntosh et al’s claims, overnights, at least on that measure were beneficial to the kids. Needless to say, the researchers didn’t mention the fact and instead claimed the opposite.

Not content with claiming a single measure indicated children’s stress when it doesn’t, the researchers moved on to others. For example, wheezing. Mothers were asked a single question about whether their child wheezed more than four times a week. “The LSAC researchers had used this question as part of a scale to assess health or sleep problems,” but McIntosh, et al decided, quite without foundation that wheezing meant stress and that stress came from overnights. Indeed, at least one study, characteristically unmentioned by McIntosh, found the opposite to be true.

The same held true for two other measures — irritability and persistence at a task — the researchers used to claim that children with frequent overnights experienced greater stress than those with fewer or none.

In short, the irritability and persistence scales were not validated measures for assessing infant stress, or developmental problems, or emotional regulation difficulties.

As Nielsen points out, irritability can result from virtually anything and lack of persistence from ADHD. But none of that prevented McIntosh, et al from claiming that heightened irritability and lower persistence were indicators of stress and that stress came from overnights with dad.

By now it should be clear that the pre-schooler study is essentially useless as a guide to anything, much less establishing policy on parenting time following divorce or separation. As many social scientists have pointed out since its publication, it’s simply too flawed and its data too ambiguous to make it worth much in any context. But in the three plus years since its publication, it’s been anything but the doorstop it qualifies to be. Unlike its more scrupulous fellows in the field of overnights for young children, the pre-schooler study swept the world of family law and became the Bible on the subject for judges, lawyers, custody evaluators, mediators and the like. It shouldn’t have, but it did.

And that’s a story for my next post

Read More

Nov 222013

MensLine Australia is a professional telephone and online support, information and referral service, helping men to deal with relationship problems in a practical and effective way.

My wife has said she is going to leave me. What do I need to know?

There are three important practical areas you need to consider if you are facing divorce: division of property, maintenance payments and residency of/contact with children. Hopefully you will be able to settle some or all of these matters without recourse to lawyers. This is clearly the preferred option as court proceedings may be lengthy and very expensive. They are also extremely stressful and can involve considerable hostility, which can have a very damaging effect on children caught in the cross-fire. However, even though court should be avoided if at all possible, it is wise to seek legal advice in order to get a clear understanding of your legal rights and responsibilities in the event that matters do have to go to formal proceedings. Note that from July 1st, 2007 it will be a legal requirement for separating couples to go through a mediation process prior to taking their case to court.

After separation, you may be required to pay child maintenance to your ex-wife to contribute to the cost of raising your children. The amount you will need to pay will depend on a range of factors including how many children you have and how old they are, your income, your wife’s income, and the amount of time you spend looking after your children each week. The formula is set by legislation. The Child Support Agency (CSA) is the government body responsible for making assessments and helping separated parents manage their financial responsibilities towards their children. In the event of separation, you will need to make contact with CSA to arrange an assessment. Note that separated parents can also make a private maintenance arrangement without going through CSA, if both parties agree.

Residency and contact arrangements for children are often the area that is most difficult for separated parents. A good idea is to prepare a parenting plan, which is a written, signed and dated agreement outlining care arrangements for your children. The main purpose is to specify who cares for which children and when, but it may also cover such areas as who pays for what expenses, as well as other matters such as choice of school, house rules and so on. A parenting plan is not legally enforceable (unless made before 14th January, 2004), although it can be converted into an enforceable ‘consent order’ if both parties agree. Mediation can help this process if parents are having trouble agreeing or even discussing arrangements.   Contact the Family Relationships Advice Line (1800 050 321), the Family Court of Australia or your local Family Relationships Centre to find out more about how to formalise a parenting plan.

Where can I get legal advice?

Community Legal Centres and legal help-lines offer free legal advice. Legal Aid in your state may also be able to offer free advice. Law associations can usually refer you to a solicitor in your area. Search our services directory for legal services close to where you live. The Family Relationships Advice Line (1800 050 321) also provides legal referrals Australia-wide.

May 212010

May 21, 2010: SHARED parenting rules used by the Family Court in divorce cases were bad for many children, an Adelaide study has found.

The shared parenting model was introduced in 2006 by the Howard Government in response to lobbying by men’s rights groups, to replace the historical practice of the courts awarding custody to mothers.

A UniSA research paper based on interviews of children from divorced families has found the one-size-fits-all practice now favoured by the courts was focused on what parents wanted rather than children’s wellbeing.

“The Parliament (in 2006) was moving to address outspoken parents in the community but addressing parents’ concerns can ignore what the children want,” the author of the research paper, lecturer Dr Alan Campbell, said.

“When you get into the court system, issues like the safety of children, what they want and getting them into the best environment they can be in are subjugated to the parent’s needs.

“Children (in the interviews) felt betrayed that their interests were not considered in the court process.”

Dr Campbell said there had been “considerable” concern by academics that the law change would put some children into dangerous family situations.

The Federal Government is reviewing the changes because of, in part, the death of four-year-old Melbourne girl Darcey Freeman who, in 2009, was thrown to her death from a bridge, allegedly by her father.

Her mother had been too fearful to tell the courts her husband was violent because she thought the information would be used against her.

Dr Campbell said other children were physically safe but felt depressed, stressed, confused and suffered adjustment problems.

Dr Campbell said shared custody arrangements made without court intervention were often positive.

“What courts need to do is be allowed to look at a broad range of options, including shared parenting,” he said.

“The court needs to find out from the child – `this is what it is like for me, this is what I’m thinking and this is what I’m feeling’, then the adults.

##Special Note: Although not mentioned in this article, Dr Campbell is a close associate of Barbara Biggs, a well known activist who believes that all men are a predatory threat to their children. It should also be noted that these outcomes have been discredited by the largest study on this topic of its kind, released by the AIFS only months ago, involving longitudinal studies with over 22,000 parents and children. This study seems fanciful and loaded with opinion and driven by womens’ rights ideologies rather than by any credible research.

Miles Kemp

Feb 062010

Shared parenting by separated couples is not a perfect solution but that’s no reason to scrap it.

TWO stories last week resonated with a familiar timbre, that of shrill feminists yelling for men’s blood. The first was the hysterical reaction to Tony Abbott’s Women’s Weekly interview in which he expressed his opinion on what is both a father’s right and duty; the moral education of his children .

The second story has a similar thread running through it, with much graver implications. It concerns shared parenting by separated or divorced couples, which was a basis for family law reforms in 2006. According to some commentators, it is a failed experiment.

The reaction is puzzling since it goes against a supposed feminist notion of equality: that fathers and mothers have equal responsibilities and roles in their children’s upbringing.

This story has been building for almost a year and, depending on what you read, shared parenting is (according to this newspaper) “on the way out” or to be “rolled back” or “brings little change”. According to The Sydney Morning Herald: “Shared care failed children.”

Adding fuel to this is a report by Richard Chisholm and a psychologist, Jennifer McIntosh, that concludes the reforms of 2006 have not benefited children, especially in acrimonious situations, which one might have thought was obvious.

Since only 16 per cent of parents practise shared parenting — and, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, most arrangements work well — one wonders what Chisholm is talking about. To work well, they must be non-acrimonious.

But there is more. According to Chisholm many parents — read mothers who still are the main carers of children post-separation — are being “coerced” into shared arrangements by fear, and by a presumption on the part of the father that shared parenting equals 50-50 shared time.

According to Chisholm, an unacceptable number of children in court-mandated shared care are exposed to unnecessary levels of acrimony and possible violence.

However the legislation is clear that where shared care has been ordered by a court, the presumption of shared care is dependent on there being no violence; putting a child into a possibly violent situation contradicts the law. So what is all this about about?

Shared care and domestic violence are separate issues. Children should not be exposed at any level. But there is definitely a risk of violence to children due to family breakdown and not simply from the father, but from the mother and other males.
None of this bothers those who want the 2006 reforms abolished. For them mothers must have autonomy even at the expense of a child’s relationship with its father. They see a way to this amid Labor’s ascendancy. Single-mothers’ groups such as the National Council for Children Post-Separation, backed by feminists and some journalists, have deliberately muddled the two issues of violence and shared care.

Chisholm recommends extensive dismantling of the 2006 reforms. In doing so, he seems to have exceeded his terms of reference, which were strictly limited to inquiring into matters before the federal Family Court in which issues of family violence arise.

According to Richard Egan of Family Voice Australia, “Chisholm proposes radical changes that could profoundly affect all separating couples with children, not just those where family violence is an issue. The report proposes removing the qualifiers `equal’ and `shared’ from the key provision introduced by the 2006 reforms. These provisions affirm as a fundamental presumption of family law `that it is in the best interests of the child for the child’s parents to have equal shared parental responsibility for the child’.

“Chisholm’s recommendation would see this key provision reduced to the meaningless statement that both parents are presumed to have `parental responsibility’, but not necessarily in equal measure.”

As for 50-50 time, Attorney-General Robert McClelland has repeated Chisholm’s claim that it is an erroneous concept in practice. “. . . Regrettably, there have been instances where people have resolved cases, settled cases, on the assumption that the law intends an equal split of time.”

But the law does require the courts, when proposing to make orders for equal responsibility, to consider making an order to provide for the child to spend equal time with each of the parents, if this is considered to be practicable and in the child’s best interests.

The AIFS reports that of those children whose parents separated between July 2006 and September 2008, one in three never stay overnight with their father and one in nine never see their father. That is an improvement on the situation prior to 2006.

Before 2006 there was a de facto presumption in favour of an “80:20 outcome” in which, usually, the mother was given care of the child for most of the time with the father being given care of the child for every second weekend and half of school holidays.

Chisholm’s recommendations would only increase the incidence of practical fatherlessness already being experienced by too many Australian children, by depriving the court of any guidance favouring equal shared responsibility.

One suspects the claim some children in shared arrangements are unnecessarily exposed to domestic violence due to mothers being afraid to speak up is a sham to cover the number of false claims of such violence, which interestingly have dropped since 2006.

McClelland has said the catalyst for the Chisholm report was the death of little Darcey Freeman last year, allegedly at the hands of her father. According to this newspaper, her mother was intimidated into surrendering her.

Curiously the intimation is that only fathers who intimidate pose a risk. They don’t. When Gabriela Garcia jumped off the same Melbourne bridge with her baby later last year, no one began an inquiry.

These deaths are tragedies, the product of despair and madness, not a catalyst for gender wars.

If we want to fix child abuse that is another issue. Mothers are more commonly perpetrators of child deaths than fathers, and boyfriends are six times more likely to be perpetrators of physical and sexual violence than biological fathers.

As Patrick Parkinson, a principal author of the reforms, has said, “In the past 30 years, we have sown the wind in the revolution in attitudes to sex, procreation and marriage. We are now reaping the whirlwind. The societal problems which this has caused are problems that no law can resolve.” Family breakdown contributes to child abuse; shared care does not.

Angela Shanahan